Bangkok, Thailand (BBN)-Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking.
The ministry of foreign affairs said the US state department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, released on Monday, “does not accurately reflect the significant efforts undertaken by the government”, which had made “tangible progress”, reports The Guardian.
Bangkok has been lobbying for an upgrade from the lowest tier 3 rank in the report.
Under US law, countries on tier 3 could trigger non-trade-related sanctions such as access to the World Bank and bars on US foreign assistance.
Thailand has pressed charges against more than 100 people, including an army general, on counts of human trafficking after dozens of bodies were found in a jungle prison camp earlier this year.
“Relevant agencies [have] intensified their efforts, which led to the crackdowns of trafficking syndicates as well as many arrests and punishments of high-ranking officials complicit in human trafficking,” the ministry said.
In recent weeks, testimony from survivors, human rights groups and the media have exposed appalling practices in Thailand’s export-oriented seafood business, suggesting the human trafficking trade is still in operation.
The US report said the Thai government was not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“Thailand investigated and prosecuted some cases against corrupt officials involved in trafficking, but trafficking-related corruption continued to impede progress,” the report said.
Last year, a Guardian investigation revealed slavery in the supply chain of farmed Thai shrimp sold in supermarkets across the world.
Prime inister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters on Tuesday that Thailand, the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, will continue to push ahead with reforms.
“Don’t worry too much. Their assessment was up to them as they were the ones assessing, not us. We just do our job. What they said in the assessment, we fixed every part of it, but some issues are quicker to fix and some are slow,” he said.
The US embassy in Bangkok said it recognised “many committed individuals within the Thai government, law enforcement, and civil society communities who are working hard to reduce and eliminate human trafficking”.
But it added “Thailand did not undertake sufficient action during the reporting period required for tangible progress on its formidable human trafficking problem.”
In a joint letter, 25 labour organisations and rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, said blacklisting Thailand, along with a decision by the European Union to issue Thailand a “yellow card” for its failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry, provided a powerful incentive for the country to address its trafficking problem.
“This decision comes at a vital time for leveraging change from the Thai government,” the coalition said in the letter to US secretary of state John Kerry.
In the most recent report, 23 other countries, including Syria, received tier 3 ranking; while others, such as Cuba and Malaysia, were upgraded to tier 2.